If Democrats do as badly as expected in next week’s elections, pundits will rush to interpret the results as a referendum on ideology. President Obama moved too far to the left, most will say, even though his actual program — a health care plan very similar to past Republican proposals, a fiscal stimulus that consisted mainly of tax cuts, help for the unemployed and aid to hard-pressed states — was more conservative than his election platform.I would say the chances of American saving itself from the upcoming apocalypse are as close to zero as anything I can imagine. The country is in a death spiral as best I can tell. It is a tragedy. It is like watching two trains coming together in a horrible crash all run in slow motion. You want to rush out and stop them but you realize there is nothing you can do. This is a tragedy that Americans have done to themselves because they refuse to honestly look in the mirror and realize that they have handed themselves over to ideologues and money interests that are quite happy to destroy the country as they loot it as part of a "winning strategy" for the Right. Tragic.
A few commentators will point out, with much more justice, that Mr. Obama never made a full-throated case for progressive policies, that he consistently stepped on his own message, that he was so worried about making bankers nervous that he ended up ceding populist anger to the right.
But the truth is that if the economic situation were better — if unemployment had fallen substantially over the past year — we wouldn’t be having this discussion. We would, instead, be talking about modest Democratic losses, no more than is usual in midterm elections.
The real story of this election, then, is that of an economic policy that failed to deliver. Why? Because it was greatly inadequate to the task.
What we do know is that the inadequacy of the stimulus has been a political catastrophe. Yes, things are better than they would have been without the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: the unemployment rate would probably be close to 12 percent right now if the administration hadn’t passed its plan. But voters respond to facts, not counterfactuals, and the perception is that the administration’s policies have failed.
The tragedy here is that if voters do turn on Democrats, they will in effect be voting to make things even worse.
The resurgent Republicans have learned nothing from the economic crisis, except that doing everything they can to undermine Mr. Obama is a winning political strategy. Tax cuts and deregulation are still the alpha and omega of their economic vision.
Is there any hope for a better outcome? Maybe, just maybe, voters will have second thoughts about handing power back to the people who got us into this mess, and a weaker-than-expected Republican showing at the polls will give Mr. Obama a second chance to turn the economy around.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Krugman on the Upcoming Apocalypse
Paul Krugman writes a NY Times op-ed that lays out his argument about how Obama has failed the American people and set the country up for a truly horrible disaster in the hands of the clueless Republicans: